Monday, December 27, 2010

Castilian Hot Chocolate

I vote we get a snow day after every Christmas weekend...five days off is definitely the way to make merry :). The wind is howling like mad out...which means it's time for Castilian Hot Chocolate :

This is my favorite way to hot chocolate bliss...those Spanish know a thing or two about hot chocolate, let me tell you. None of this powdery mix junk, this is the real deal : chocolate, sugar, milk, simmered together until it's super thick and rich and luscious...almost pudding-like, but still drinkable. Trust me on this one, once you try it you'll never settle for Swiss Miss again.

The recipe is from "The Vegetarian Epicure (Book Two)", by Anna Thomas. I've mentioned Book One in a previous very first cookbook of my very own, given to me when I was just a little girl and giving me a huge start in my quest for culinary greatness. Book Two explores more "foreign" dishes, well at least "foreign" for the time... Spanish, Italian, Mexican, Indian...definitely all with a 70's bent, complete with when to pass around the joint :). Okay, so maybe the books are a little dated now...but both will always hold a special place in my heart. And both still have some damn fine recipes.

The only update I make to this one is to use the darkest cocoa powder I can find...Hershey's makes a Special Dark version which works perfectly.

simmering away

dark and delicious

screaming for whipped cream !!

Castilian Hot Chocolate

1/2 cup cocoa powder (darker the better)
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch 
1/2 cup water
1 quart milk 
whipped cream (optional)

Whisk the cocoa and sugar together into a medium-sized saucepan. Dissolve the cornstarch in the water, and stir into the cocoa and sugar until it is a smooth paste.

Begin heating the mixture, stirring it with a whisk, and gradually pour in the milk. Continue stirring with the whisk as you bring the liquid to a simmer.

Allow the chocolate to simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring often, until it is thick, glossy and completely smooth.

Serve steaming hot, topped with whipped cream if desired.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Holiday Baking

Sugar Cookies
Oh, how I love my holiday baking :) I think I was about 10 when my grandmother gave me her Christmas cookie cutters...and I think I've made sugar cookies every year since then. It just doesn't seem like Christmas until I'm creaming shortening and sugar, smelling orange peel and vanilla, and getting colored sugar everywhere.

As the years have gone by, of course, I've expanded...Pfefferneusse were added first - a traditional German cookie, the name translates to "pepper nuts" - and yes, there is pepper in the dough ! The smell of these...molasses, butter, another of my Christmas must-haves.

Pepper Nuts, anyone ?
Viennese Christmas Snowflakes were added a few years ago - Mark is nuts about anything raspberry, and these nutty, buttery cookies are the perfect vehicle for raspberry nirvana

A much-requested guest the past few years is the Godiva Tiramisu - or, as one of my favorite foodie friends calls it, the Goddamn Godiva Tiramisu. What makes it "Godiva" is that I use Godiva liqueur instead of the traditional Marsala or rum...and boy, does that make it. This, really, is a culinary orgasm.

will post a pic tomorrow after we cut into it...
If I have time, I try and make homemade truffles as well...and I did this year. Flavored with The Knot (a delicious caramel sort of whiskey liqueur....makes the best Irish Coffee ever !), these truffles are definitely a win :

And finally, a newcomer to the Christmas Eve festivities...this year I decided to make a Buche de Noel. (the traditional French "Yule Log"). After the rousing success of Michelle's Mousse Cake, I really wanted to make something similar for Christmas, and I knew the Buche was made of similar stuffs. Didn't fool around - went straight to Martha Stewart  - but made marzipan mushrooms instead of the traditional meringue (I am not a meringue fan), and used bittersweet chocolate instead of semisweet (we love dark chocolate around these parts).  I also didn't cut off the ends to make knots - didn't really see the point, and mine came out plenty log-like as you can see :

really, it's marzipan !

The components of this recipe all taste fantastic...but I don't know that the cake "rolled" as well as it should have. Maybe I just need to practice more....I like the idea of that :).

Here are the rest of the recipes and/or links....Happy Holidays everyone !!

Sugar Cookies

2/3 c shortening
3/4 c sugar
1 egg
1/2 t vanilla
1/2 t orange peel
2 c flour
1 1/2 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
2 -4 t milk

With an electric beater, cream together shortening and sugar. Add egg, vanilla and orange peel, and mix until well combined.

In a separate bowl, sift together dry ingredients. Add to shortening mixture, and add milk as needed to make a workable dough. Chill for one hour.

Roll out 1/8 inch thick, cut out and place on cookie sheets and decorate as desired. Bake in a 375 oven for 8 - 10 minutes, or until just starting to brown the tiniest bit on the edges. Cool on racks.


1/2 c (1 stick) butter
3/4 c molasses
2 eggs, beaten
4 c flour
1/2 c sugar
1 1/4 t baking soda
1 1/2 t cinnamon
1/2 t nutmeg
1/2 t cloves
1/8 t ground black pepper

Combine molasses and butter in a small saucepan, and heat until butter melts. Let cool a bit, then add eggs and mix well.

Sift together remaining ingredients, and stir in molasses mixture - will make a fairly stiff dough. Let the dough chill at least two hours.

Roll into 1 inch balls and place on cookie sheets. Bake in a 350 oven 12 - 14 minutes, until starting to brown. Roll immediately in powdered sugar, and cool on racks. These actually improve after a day or two, though they're great anytime !

Viennese Snowflakes

These are a Silver Palate recipe, which you can find here. The only changes I make are to cut them into the shapes you see in the picture, which is (I think) a flower shaped cutter. The dough falls apart really easily, and I kept losing points off the tree branches - rounder works better. I also use jam with seeds, as that's Mark's preferred type.

Irish Knot Truffles

This was a great find from Canadian Living, of all places...though they called them "Scotch on the Rocks Truffle Cups". I had to use my beloved Knot, of course :) They are much easier than the rolled truffles and just as good !

Godiva Tiramisu

7 oz Godiva Liqueur, divided
3/4 c strong black coffee or espresso
24 - 30 ladyfingers (depends on size - the crunchy ones, not soft)
1 1/2 lbs mascarpone cheese
3 eggs, separated
2/3 cup plus 2 T confectioner's sugar
4 oz dark chocolate, grated

Mix 4 oz of the Godiva with the coffee. Dip ladyfingers quickly into this mixture, and lay in baking or casserole dish. Beat together the mascarpone, egg yolks, 2/3 cup of sugar and remaining Godiva until smooth. Whip egg whites (with clean beaters) and remaining sugar until stiff, and fold into the cheese mixture. Spread cheese mixture over the ladyfingers, sprinkle with chocolate and refrigerate overnight.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Pasta Bolognese

I really need some new dishes :)

*this post made possible by the Dutiful Dish Slave, aka the best son in the world. He's been a trooper during the evolution of this blog, doing stacks and stacks of dishes with nary a complaint. Thank you, Alex :) *

Busy times here at Chez C.O. ...we just love Christmas around these parts. Decorating, present shopping, caroling...and, of course, fun in the kitchen. Preliminary baking has been completed, with much much more to happen this week. My actual dinnertime cooking has been suffering a bit as a result...which is good news for Mark, as he's been able to get into the kitchen unhindered

We've both been craving Bolognese sauce for a while...not that we've ever made it, mind, but we wanted it all the same. Bolognese is a rich, meaty sauce...a combination of beef and pork, with ingredients such as chicken livers and milk or heavy cream often added to enhance that rich, luscious taste and feel. Traditionally there is not lot of tomato going on - the focus is the rich meaty flavor.

Other than coming out strongly in favor of chicken livers, I really left Mark alone on this one...and, as usual, he has come up with a winner here :

Mark's Pasta Bolognese

1/4 c olive oil
1 T butter
5 oz Canadian Bacon
1 good sized yellow onion, chopped
2 carrots, minced
2 celery stalks, minced
3/4 cup tiny mushrooms
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 lb ground beef
1 pound sweet Italian sausage (casings removed)
6 chicken livers
1/2 cup veal or beef stock
1/4 cup red wine
1/2 cup Marsala
1 28 oz can whole Italian plum tomatoes
3 oz tomato paste
1 t salt
1/2 t thyme
1/2 t cinnamon
1/2 t nutmeg
1 t smoked paprika
1/4 cup heavy cream
fresh chopped parsley

1 to 2 pounds mafaldine pasta , cooked according to package directions

Melt the butter in a heavy saute pan and add half the olive oil. Saute the onions, carrot and celery for about five minutes, then add the mushrooms and garlic and saute another 5 - 10 minutes (until soft, not brown) . Transfer to a heavy stockpot or Dutch oven.

Heat the remaining oil to brown the meats, and let the meat mixture cook a bit - until almost dry. Transfer the meat to the pot, and deglaze the pan with the red wine. Add the wine, Marsala, and stock to the pot.

Drain the liquid from the tomatoes into the pot, then crush the tomatoes themselves with your hands and add them as well. Add the tomato paste and spices, mix well, and let simmer 1 1/2 to 2 hours, uncovered. Stir in the heavy cream at the end, and sprinkle with the parsley.

*Mafaldine pasta is not super easy to find....other pastas would work as well; tagliatelle, fusilli, fettuccine, or whatever you like. Amount to make depends on your personal pasta-sauce ratio preference. We cooked two pounds and had about half a pound left over.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Scallop and Bacon Pizza with Maple-Cider Agrodolce drizzle, Tavolino, Foxborough

Oh's that good :)

Scallop and Bacon Pizza - light lemon-herb cream sauce topped with grilled scallops, crispy bacon, asiago and mozzarella cheeses, with a maple-cider agrodolce drizzle.

Sent from my BlackBerry wireless device.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Anadama Bread...or, I Have A Bread Machine And I'm Not Afraid To Use It.

Anna, damn her !!

Yeah, that's right....I have a bread machine. And I like it :)

Now, don't get me wrong....I love making bread by hand. There's something inherently satisfying about the whole kneading and punching down process...excellent way to work out your aggressions. And I also love the dough hook option on my Kitchen Aid stand mixer...the hook is especially good for sticky doughs, as it takes a lot less time to extract than your fingers. I'm not ashamed to admit, though, that I've gotten a lot of use out of my breadmaker in the 15+ years I've owned it. I don't think it's a coincidence that many of the soups I like to make take about 2 1/2 hours...which just so happens to be the amount of time it takes for my Regal to turn out a loaf of yummy bread. And though I would dearly love to spend every minute of my day in the kitchen, the sad truth is that sometimes the rest of life (laundry, family, super-awesome football teams) get in the way.

If you use the same quality ingredients that you do for "by hand" bread - and you keep an eye on the dough for the first 20 minutes to make sure it looks right - bread from a machine will taste just as good as bread from your oven. And you won't have to worry about finding a warm spot for the bread to rise or anything - the machine takes care of that (in fact, I use the "dough" setting all the time for making dough for pizza, rolls etc). Just follow your machine's guidelines, adding ingredients in the recommended order (mine is liquid, then butter, then flour, then yeast and salt) and you'll be all set.

Today I decided to tackle Anadama Bread, as a compliment to my turkey soup . I've always wanted to try making Anadama Bread, as I love the various stories behind it - none of which are probably true, but that doesn't make them bad :). The most often heard version is that the bread was named by a husband cursing his wife for serving him nothing but cornmeal and molasses porridge, which he decided one day to add yeast and flour to, then bake - cursing "Anna, damn her !" the whole time. A less-heard version has it that Anna was such a skilled baker that her husband says "Anna, damn her" while happily eating her delicious bread. Regardless of where the name comes from, Anadama Bread has been a New England specialty since the 1800's, best known on the North Shore (Massachusetts, where your intrepid blogger is based), and it is known for a reason - it is absolutely delicious. Recipes vary, but all of them contain flour (always white, sometimes whole wheat and/or rye), cornmeal, and molasses.

When I set out to make this today, I came up with a recipe using a method that's worked pretty well for me in the past...research a few recipes, take the parts I like from each, then add my own twist. Often times, doing it this way requires a bit of tweaking...but this one was a winner from the start. Sweet, but not overly so...sturdy but tender texture, lovely crust, beautiful golden brown color all the way short, a win :).

Anadama Bread

1 1/4 c water
1/3 c molasses
2 T butter
2 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1 c whole wheat flour
2 1/4  t yeast
1 t salt
Pinch of nutmeg

Add ingredients in order specified by your bread machine manufacturer, and use the setting for a larger loaf (as opposed to smaller). Dough tends to be heavy and sticky, so make sure it's kneading when it's supposed to...

Turkey Soup with Barley and Mushrooms

Soup is good food....

ahhh, Thanksgiving...the holiday that keeps on giving. At least the leftovers do...

How good is turkey soup ? I mean, chicken soup is great and all...but there is just something about turkey soup. So rich, so flavorful...just so good. Growing up, my aunts in Maine made the best turkey rice soup on earth - probably the most requested dinner by the various cousins staying at the house (myself included). Whatever might be wrong in your world, this soup would fix. Once old enough to make my own soups, the turkey rice was one of the first I did...and I have to say, I really got it down. (When my sister was staying at the hospital with my newborn nephew, she wouldn't eat anything except my soup). Eventually, though, we needed to alternate with something a bit different...enter barley. Barley just elevates turkey soup to the stratosphere - the richness of the turkey complements the nutty barley perfectly. And mushrooms and barley are just so good together...

For this one, rather than a recipe I'm just going to give you the general method I follow. If you'd like more specific directions, definitely email me. (The Anadama Bread I made with it - included in the photograph - will be written up as a separate entry, because that's got a pretty cool story behind it).

My method of making soup out of leftover birds - Thanksgiving birds in particular - is a bit, well, odd. This, I am sure, will surprise no one that knows me. :). Since we tend to cook ridiculously large birds around here (26 pounds, this year) I've discovered I'm better off splitting the goods into two soups - for one thing, half a giant bird is a heck of a lot easier to fit in a stockpot. We basically pick and pick until we can't look at the carcass anymore, and then I take my poultry shears and split whatever's left in two. (I have the most amazing German-made poultry shears, inherited from my grandmother...those bad boys will cut through anything). The halves go in to heavy duty freezer bags until I'm willing to say the word "turkey" again.

Once the muse strikes me (like, say, on a rainy Sunday full of Christmas shopping and a late Patriots game) , I take one of my turkey-sicles and throw it into a stockpot (still frozen), with a handful of tiny onions or a couple of small ones (skin on) and plenty of salt and pepper. I add enough water to cover, bring everything to a boil, and turn it down to a simmer. I then start my bread and get on with my afternoon.

An hour and a half to two hours later, I turn off the turkey pot and start chopping some vegetables..usually leeks, carrots and celery in equal amounts, maybe two cups of each. I start these in a clean stockpot in which I've melted about half a stick of unsalted butter, and saute them until they start to cook down a bit. (I picked up this tip from the Silver Palate - it really makes a huge difference in the flavor). I add salt and pepper again, then measure in eight cups of broth from the turkey pot and a cup of barley, bring it to a boil, and reduce it to a simmer.

Once the turkey remains in the other pot are cool enough to handle (okay, truthfully I always end up burning my fingers a bit :) ), I collect up all the usable meat from the stockpot, stripping it off the bones and chopping it up a little if needed. I also slip the onions out of the skins, and I add all the good turkey and onion parts to the simmering pot with the vegetables, stock and barley. I taste it at this point, and if I feel like the broth isn't strong enough I'll add 2 - 4 Knorr's Chicken Bouillon cubes (yes, it has to be Knorr's...everything else is just salt and yuck). The last step is to slice up about a cup of mushrooms and add them to the pot. If you feel like the soup needs more broth, add a few ladlefuls of whatever is left from your turkey stock pot, or use chicken stock - broth ratio is a personal preference, we tend to do it a little thick around here - make it however you like it, it's your soup ! In any event, once the mushrooms are cooked to your liking the soup is done.

Soup is, indeed, good food....

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

lobster mac + cheese

Culinary Orgasm...defined
Seriously, what could possibly be better than mac and cheese...oh yeah, mac and cheese and LOBSTA. This is the kind of stuff that makes you moan and sigh while you eat it....that you eat way too much of (and yet you can't stop)....that you dream about...this, readers, is a Culinary Orgasm.

I've been making homemade mac and cheese for years...never been able to abide the powdery orange stuff, but once I figured out how to make the real deal I was hooked. The key to good mac and cheese (without embellishments) is the cheese...a mix of Cabot Extra Sharp and Seriously Sharp (or Hunter's Sharp). My basic version plus lobster is quite tasty, but I've been tweaking it a bit for the lobster version the last few times I've made it. You want it cheesy, but you also want to be able to taste all the lobstery goodness - so not as sharp as when the cheese gets star billing. I think I've now hit on the proper combination; a mix of a good but mild cheddar, a nice, creamy Fontina, and some Gruyere. 

Herewith, I think, is the direct route to nirvana :

Lobster Mac & Cheese

Cooked, canned frozen lobster meat is available at Shaw's....and that's usually the only place I can find it. I think the cans are 12 oz (I've used all mine up, so can't look and tell you :) ) . Though I am a lobster snob by birth (fresh Cushing lobster is the only way to fly), I have to admit this product works perfectly in this dish.

Makes a huge amount...which will all be eaten, I promise :) Easily halved...

1 lb cellentani, cavatappi or similar pasta
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), plus 4 T for topping
1/2 cup flour
2 cups milk
2 cups cream
6 cups grated cheese (cheddar-fontina-gruyere mix highly recommended)
1 1/2 lbs lobster meat
1 cup dry plain breadcrumbs (panko are great here)

Cook pasta according to package directions; drain.

For cream sauce : melt the stick of the butter in saucepan and whisk in flour. Slowly whisk in milk, then cream. Simmer 5 minutes or so, to get rid of raw flour taste. Whisk in about 2 cups of your cheese mixture.

Melt the remaining butter, and stir in the panko crumbs.

In a really large casserole dish, layer the pasta, lobster, cheese, and sauce...then another layer of pasta, lobster,cheese, and sauce...then top with a last layer of cheese. Top with the buttered crumbs, and bake in a 375 oven until bubbling and a bit golden (20 - 30 minutes, depending on your pan)

Inman Square - spices and sustenance

off to Inman Square last weekend to hit Christina's Spices (no website, but reviews and info here )...what a treasure this place cool !! You walk in and your nose doesn't know what to make of it...every smell you can think of and a few you've never considered. The spices are tucked in everywhere - bags, jars, bins and boxes, you name it - not to mention unique groceries, loose teas...could get lost in there for days. It's not a fussy store, and that seems to extend to the hours...though scheduled to open at 10, no one had bothered to open the door by the time we got there.

So, what does one do at 10 AM on a sleepy Sunday in Inman Square ? Why, go to the S + S for breakfast, of course. I adore the S + mother has been taking me there literally all my life, it's one of her very favorite places. An Inman Square fixture since 1919, it's a traditional deli gone wild...the menu is huge, everything is reliably fantastic, and I can satisfy my lox-and-eggs addiction day or night. "Es" means "eat" in Yiddish, and you'd best be prepared to "eat and eat" when you get there.

In a slight departure from my traditional choice, I went with Eggs Copenhagen - a truly delectable take on Eggs Benedict :

oh yeah baby !
Poached eggs, Nova Scotia lox, sauteed onions and Hollandaise sauce over really good English muffins, home fries and fresh fruit on the side. Serious culinary incredibly good.

My dining partner opted for another take on Eggs Benedict - Eggs Oscar :

unfortunately, Mark opted out of appearing on camera :)

This was amazing - poached eggs on potato pancakes topped with crabmeat, asparagus and Bearnaise sauce. Putting this over potato pancakes was brilliant - the perfect foil.

Spicy !
The S also does a decent take on a Bloody Mary...not super strong, but quite tasty.

Perfect start to a shopping expedition !!